Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

It took a short trip to Cirencester to see the Pearl-bordered Fritillary a week ago. They are not present at home in the Forest of Dean, although we do have the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary here, which I hope to catch up with again soon. It took quite a bit of walking to find a colony of Pearl-bordered Fritillary, but once found, there were lots to be seen. I believe they will travel from one colony to another, but it wasn't necessary to follow any of them as there were plenty to be seen amongst the clearing and the newly planted saplings. This woodland butterfly gets its name from the series of "pearls" that run along the outside edge of the underside of the hindwing. Males are often seen flying swiftly, low across the breeding site in search of a mate and are extremely difficult to follow, the colouring of the wings providing excellent camouflage against the dead bracken that is often found at these sites.

Brünnich's guillemot

This is another shot from the archives, taken at the very end of 2013. Named after a Danish zoologist, the Brünnich's guillemot is a very rare sight in Britain, and most sightings are unfortunately of dead birds, washed up on our most northern shores. There have been just over 40 records of this bird in Britain, and well over 50% of them were found dead. This bird was seemingly very healthy and well, and couldn't have got much further south if it had tried, found at Portland, Dorset. Whilst it's a rarity to Britain, there are thought to be between 15 and 20 million individuals worldwide. They have the smallest territory of any bird, requiring less than one square foot per individual! In pursuit of a meal, thick-billed guillemots perform short shallow dives, but they are more than capable of reaching depths of 100m or more to reach favoured fish and squid.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Another new look

It doesn't seem that long ago that I gave a new lick of paint, but it was just over a year ago, in April 2014. For someone who enjoys fiddling with websites more than would normally be deemed normal, I've shown restraint in leaving it alone since then, especially considering how generally slow and unresponsive it was. Hopefully the new look and layout that I've just finished working on will prove snappier and more intuitive than before. It may still get the odd tweak, but I think it's as good as finished. Until next time anyway. The next thing on my list of unnecessary fiddling is to enhance the species database. The species list was only ever really intended for my own benefit and reference, but putting it online makes it convenient for me to access (almost) anywhere. However, with the list constantly growing, I'm finding that it would be useful for me to refine the filtering so that I can narrow down the results beyond simply the class of species, so that's the next thing I'll be updating.

Common Blue

I've really enjoyed the butterflies so far this year. The highlights have included Duke of Burgundy, Wood White, Marsh Fritillary, Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Adonis Blue, but it's still early and there are plenty species yet to make their appearance. I keep checking for the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary here in the Forest of Dean, which must be due to appear any day now, but I think I'm still a little too early. Or maybe I'm just not looking hard enough. This is the most common of our butterflies though - the Common Blue. It can be found in grassy areas in most parts of England and Wales, along with southern Scotland, flying from April through to October.

Song Thrush

There are thought to be over a million pairs of Song Thrush in Britain, their numbers increasing in the winter, as some continental birds overwinter here. It will regularly repeat its song phrases, which helps distinguish it from Blackbirds. They will also mimic other species, or in urban areas even car alarms. Only recently, thanks to a friend pointing it out to me, I've been hearing them mimic Goshawks in the woods near home. Towards the end of summer if the ground is too hard to obtain earthworms, they take snails and break the shells by tapping them on stones. These 'snail anvils' can often be found in gardens with the remains of a snail around them. This behaviour is unique to the song thrush, but occasionally a blackbird will steal the snail once an unfortunate thrush has carried out the hard work of breaking the shell.

Grey Wagtail

This photo dates back a couple of years - a Grey Wagtail in the Forest of Dean. The name Grey Wagtail does a bit of a dis-service to the plumage of the species, but the even more striking colours of the Yellow Wagtail is arguably more deserving of the more colourful name. The Grey Wagtail is a common bird to see around shallow freshwater streams, rivers and lakes, where it feeds on a diet of insects. I'm not sure that anyone knows for certain why this species incessantly wags it's tail, but I believe one likely theory is that it is to communicate to other birds that a territory is occupied. Another theory is that it helps to flush out insects. Prey is usually caught on the ground or in shallow water, but they can also act like a flycatcher, catching prey on the wing.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Great Crested Newt

The Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) is Britain’s largest and most threatened newt. The body is generally dark brown to black in colour with a warty appearance, which gives the species its other common name, the Warty Newt. The underside is bright orange with black markings that are unique to each individual. Females tend to be slightly longer than males, and in the breeding season the latter develop an obvious crest between the head and the tail, and a silver streak along the middle of the tail.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Common Kingfisher

A Kingfisher with catch. Kingfishers have to eat around 60% of their body weight daily, so by necessity become very territorial of their stretch of river.

Adonis Blue

The Adonis Blue prefers dry chalk or limestone grassland with abundant foodplants in short turf, but slightly taller vegetation may be used in sheltered quarries. Most colonies occur on warm, south-facing slopes where favoured breeding areas are sheltered hollows (especially old chalk pits and quarries). This one was found yesterday on the lower slopes of Rodborough Common, Gloucestershire.

Hypsosinga heri

This little spider is no more than a couple of millimetres in size. It doesn't appear to have a common/English name, but it's Latin binomial name is Hypsosinga heri. It has only been recorded in Britain a total of 6 times, and only 3 of those occurred in the last 100 years. However, it is widespread is southern and central Europe. Further info -

Monday, May 18, 2015

Atlantic Puffin

One of over 20,000 Puffins currently on Skomer island, Pembrokeshire. This one was photographed amongst the Sea Campion which is in abundance on the island.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Red Grouse

Red Grouse in flight, photographed last month at Lochindorb, Cairngorms. Also seen were a couple of Black-throated Divers, a couple of Common Buzzards and a Rough-legged Buzzard. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were no Harriers to be seen all week.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Wild Boar

A male Wild Boar in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Sand Lizard

Sand Lizard from Ben Locke on Vimeo.

A short video of a male Sand Lizard basking in the sun in Dorset.

Great Grey Shrike

A Great Grey Shrike in the Forest of Dean, photographed back in February.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Crested Tit

Photographed last month in Abernethy Forest, Scotland. In Scotland, the crested tit is confined to Caledonian pine forest remnants and pine plantations in Easter Ross, the Beauly catchment (which includes Glen Affric), Strathspey and the Moray Firth coast. It is missing from some of the ancient pinewood remnants, including those on Deeside and at Rannoch, but the reasons for this are not clear, as suitable habitat exists there. The poor dispersal ability of the species has been suggested as one possible reason for this - the geographical isolation of the forest fragments has resulted in large gaps of treeless ground which the birds are unable to cross in sufficient numbers.